Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus

It began with too much time on my hands and a need to move about the country. While I'm no stranger to flying I thought I might treat myself to the slightly more bohemian joy of flying across the payment aboard a bus. It's been a while since I'd taken a bus in America. When in college it was my primary mode of travel between places. Being that I was trying to conserve a bit of cash and the destination was not too far away I figured the bus was a great idea.

Being a dutiful traveler I booked my ticket online well in advance of an actual departure date, promptly forgot about it and got my drink on Chicago style with tequila, vodka, or cognac depending on the company. Time passes quickly though and before I knew what was going on I rolled up my air mattress on a more than bitter Chicago morning to catch the busses to the busses to the bus station for the bus. Lots of bussing in my near future, viva la vie boheme.

Fortunately I had decided to leave an extra hour early. Considering that I was commuting during rush hour that turned out to be very wise as the I ended up having only about an extra hour when I arrived at my destination, rather than an extra two. I pulled out purchased e-ticked confirmation numbers and prepared to get tickets to I could get on my way, standing quietly and still a bit out of place in line. Will I ever feel in place in America? I admit it gets easier with each passing day, but then with each passing day I just think about how much closer I am getting to my return to Korea. Escapist thinking? Maybe.

Called to the front I delivered my numbers, prepared to receive my ticket, find a bathroom and get a cup of coffee. A good number of things to do before getting on a five hour bus. The attendant punched everything in, smiled at me, and handed me back my papers.

"This ticket has been printed." She says stills smiling.

I stare blankly at her. I'm good at staring blankly. Have perfected it, in fact, to an art form after six years in Korea.

"It has not." I shoot back. Go me with the witty repartee.

"It has. You got it in the mail."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"Okay, assuming I did have a ticket printed that I did not receive what should I do?"

"Call the post office and find your ticket."

"I'm supposed to be on the bus in forty five minutes."

"Good luck."

So I turned around and looked about to find and see if I could get a second opinion. I was calm. I was actually scarily calm. I was the kind of calm I imagine must take over homicidal maniacs with a difficult victim, dead, scary calm. I found the customer service desk and walked up and explained again to them that I did not have ticket but the system seemed to think I did. I asked for advice on how to proceed.

"Call the post office."

"As far as I can tell, this is not a postal problem, this is a bus problem. Is there someone within the bus company I can call?"

"Oh, sure, here call them." So I took the number for the head office, scrambled to a pay phone and dialed.

I talked to a very friendly girl in India. I explained to her that I was trying to catch my bus which was now leaving in forty minutes and that I did not have a ticket and the system was confused. She asked for my information which I passed along.

"Your ticket has been printed."

"No, it hasn't."

"You should have gotten it in the mail."

"Well, I didn't. Is it possible for me to get a ticket now?"

"Oh, sure, just call the main office and they can fax over a letter to let you on the bus."

She hung up. So I went back to customer service and asked for the number for a main office which was passed to me. I then went back to the phone where I was informed by the hold message that it may take up to ten minutes for someone to help me.

Silly machine, it took twenty five.

"Hello, how can I help you?" I explained my situation in detail, including all numbers. "Can I put you on hold?"

"Sure, why not, I've been on hold for twenty minutes, what's a few more?"

After another ten minutes my bus was announcing the boarding. My assistant came back on line and informed me that the fax had been sent and I should go to customer service to get a ticket. I thanked her calmly and went to get the ticket.

"I have a number." I say, convinced, confident that said number, the number that showed I had talked to a real live customer service person, would get me a ticket.

"Did she send a fax?"

"Yes."

"I'll go back in a minute and check," says the attendant to me. Yes, of course, I smile. I am calm. I radiate a homicidal calm. I smile. I look at the clock.

"My bus leaves in five minutes."

"I'll go CHECK, in a MINUTE." She says rather huffily turning away to eat her chicken dinner at ten a.m. I stand there staring blankly. Calmly. I stare and I wait. Finally after polishing a few more fries she heads to the back and comes back.

I hear "last call" in the background.

"You're fax isn't here." I just smile.

She asks to see my number again and I pass it to her. She takes a deep huffy breath at me and throws a clipboard in my direction.

"Fill in the highlighted parts." The highlighted parts ask for basic information. The form is a complaint of failure in costumer service. I fill in the highlighted bits and she gives me a blank ticket. I turn and trot out the door as fast as my slightly heavy bag will allow for the bus which is shutting its doors.

They let me on. I was still very, very calm. The question is can I remain that way. This was only the beginning of the journey.

3 comments:

GeologyJoe said...

Bravo for your calm. I think I would have lost my mind.

Tony said...

Suicidal maniac calm... wow... been there and it is some scary feeling... cold and calm and in control of every emotion and thought. Loved this piece and want to hear about the rest of journey. BTW, I added your AOL so you may get an weird "invite" from trvette55 or something like that.

Saradevil said...

@Geo

I think I did lose my mind a little.

@Tony

Thanks, I will look for you the next time I'm online. Sometimes being scary calm is all I have going for me.